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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Warfarin

A Lethal Combination in Traumatic Brain Injury

Gross, Brian W. BS; Gillio, Maria BS; Rinehart, Cole D. BS; Lynch, Caitlin A. BS; Rogers, Frederick B. MD, MS, FACS

doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000256

Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid and omega-6 docosahexaenoic acid, found in over-the-counter fish oil supplements, are often consumed for their beneficial, prophylactic, anti-inflammatory effects. Although the mechanisms of action are not fully known, a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats may reduce the risk of hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, hypertension, and inflammatory diseases. Masked by its many benefits, the risks of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation are often underappreciated, particularly its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation and promote bleeding in patients taking anticoagulant medications. The following details the clinical case of an elderly patient taking warfarin and fish oil supplementation whose warfarin-induced coagulopathy could not be reversed after suffering blunt head trauma.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Correspondence: Brian W. Gross, BS, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, 555 N. Duke St, Lancaster, PA 17602 (

Author Contributions: Brian W. Gross—case review, literature review, manuscript preparation; Cole D. Rinehart—case review, literature review, manuscript preparation; Frederick B. Rogers—case review, literature review, manuscript preparation, editorial oversight.

All authors have neither conflicts of interest nor disclosures of funding to declare.

Copyright © 2017 by the Society of Trauma Nurses.